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Reviews

REVIEW from The Circus Report USA circus magazine.

I always admire those who specialize in researching obscure sections of theatrical and circus history, their tenacity and determination to get to the bottom of a facet of entertainment nobody else has ever delved into, and Stockwell is to be praised for his exhaustive research into the subject of Man-Monkeys, men who have dressed up as apes for the entertainment of the public since 1801 and he recounts their history through theatre, circus and films from the Regency theatre stage to recent cinematic blockbusters like “King Kong” and “Planet of the Apes”.

Apparently, the first play to feature an ape as a character was in “La Perouse” which became standard to the repertoire of theatres of the day, and in l825 a French dancer, Mazurier became the sensation of Paris and London by playing the lead in a ballet, “Jocko ou le Singe du Bresil”. An entire sub-genre of drama followed, encompassing the appearance of monkeys or apes, spreading to popular circus acts and America movies.

Many Regency and Victorian performers appeared as man-monkeys and were intertwined with the appearances of great clowns like Grimaldi. A number of leading acrobats and contortionists such as Edward Klischnigg appeared as man-monkeys on the stage and then in the music halls and circuses, and Mr Stockwell brings his research up to date with mention of 20th century circus performers like Fritz Roth, Natal, Norbu and the Gutis who all performed in European and American circuses.

Entertaining, well-written and well-researched, “Man-Monkeys” is certainly a diverting and intriguing new book.

Don Stacey September 2017

REVIEW from ENCORE UK showbusiness magazine


I have just finished reading this compelling book. I am not aware of any other publication covering this subject before but, having worked with many actors in skins in scores of Pantos, I was intrigued to find that, for more than two hundred or so years, men dressed as monkeys have been appearing in theatres all over the place.

Some of the characters and their stories are incredible. Imagine falling twenty feet from a broken wire dressed as a gorilla and going back on a couple of days later! Or how about Mr George Conquest who, in one production, appeared and disappeared through more than twenty trapdoors hidden around the stage. Health and safety gone mad!

This is a brilliantly researched book that brings us from the staging of 'A New Grand Historic Pantomime Drama in Two Parts called 'La Perouse; or The Desolate Island' in 1801 at the Covent Garden Theatre which featured a young man called Master Menage playing a chimpanzee, right up to the film War of the Planet of the Apes in 2017. The actors, acrobats, dancers and posture- masters in between, make for a thoroughly interesting read.
Keith Simmons August 2017

REVIEW from CALL BOY The Official Journal of the British Music Hall Society

MAN-MONKEYS GALORE! Thus sang W.S.Gilbert, ever-ready with an apposite phrase, in Princess Ida and it might have served as an epigraph for this fascinating story, the compelling intensity of the research and the mellow suaveness of the writing doing deserved service to the theme. From Regency times until the dawn of television, a human captivation with monkeys, arising from our seeming likeness to them, was met by a long and busy line of ‘man-monkeys’. Alan Stockwell provides a guide, biographical and chronological, to this phenomenon, one which made itself manifest in theatre, circus, music hall, variety and pantomime - plus a coda on cinema with reference to King Kong and the Planet Of The Apes. We learn of the wizardry of the cinematic techniques; we are politely reminded that Tarzan of the Apes was just a big strong bloke.
Initially, there were monkey-men in plays, such as La Perouse, where a chimpanzee has a leading role, but the notion was more readily adopted by acrobats, who delighted with the extravagance of their antics rather than, as with actors, a concentration on monkey imitation.
Alan Stockwell, in this engaging text, gives us lots to think about.
Eric Midwinter Autumn 2017

5.0 out of 5 stars It is clearly the result of excellent research (both theatrical and biographical)
By Independent Researcher on 1 August 2017 Verified Purchase

Alan Stockwell's book comes as no surprise to me because I am very familiar with this particular subject, but from more academic perspectives. The book is richly illustrated, devoting separate chapters to the principal performers. It is clearly the result of excellent research (both theatrical and biographical), and is well written. It will entertain the general reader (for whom I assume it has been principally written) while offering useful material for those (like myself) exploring other aspects of theatre history.

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